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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Masashige joined Nitta Yoshisada


He then handed to his son a sword which he himself had received from the Emperor. Passing thence to Hyogo, Masashige joined Nitta Yoshisada, and the two leaders devoted the night to a farewell banquet. The issue of the next day's combat was a foregone conclusion. Masashige had but seven hundred men under his command. He posted this little band at Minato-gawa, near the modern Kobe, and with desperate courage attacked the van of the Ashikaga army. Gradually he was enveloped, and being wounded in ten places he, with his brother and sixty followers, entered the precincts of a temple and died by their own hands.* Takauji and his captains, lamenting the brave bushi's death, sent his head to his family; and history recognizes that his example exercised an ennobling influence not only on the men of his era but also on subsequent generations. After Masashige's fall a similar fate must have overtaken Yoshisada, had not one of those sacrifices familiar on a Japanese field of battle been made for his sake. Oyamada Takaiye gave his horse to the Nitta general and fell fighting in his stead, while Yoshisada rode away. At first sight these sacrifices seem to debase the saved as much as they exalt the saver. But, according to Japanese ethics, an institution was always more precious than the person of its representative, and a principle than the life of its exponent. Men sacrificed themselves in battle not so much to save the life of a commanding officer, as to avert the loss his cause would suffer by his death. Parity of reasoning dictated acceptance of the sacrifice.

*Kusunoki Masashige is the Japanese type of a loyal and true soldier. He was forty-three at the time of his death. Three hundred and fifty-six years later (1692), Minamoto Mitsukuni, feudal chief of Mito, caused a monument to be erected to his memory at the place of his last fight. It bore the simple epitaph "The Tomb of Kusunoki, a loyal subject."

ENGRAVING: OSONAE (New Year Offering to Family Tutelary Deity)

ENGRAVING: PALANQUINS (Used in Old Japan Only by the Nobility)




IN July, 1336, Takauji entered Kyoto and established his headquarters at the temple Higashi-dera. Go-Daigo had previously taken refuge at the Hiei-zan monastery, the ex-Emperors, Hanazono and Kogon, remaining in the capital where they looked for the restoration of their branch of the Imperial family. The Ashikaga leader lost no time in despatching a force to attack Hiei-zan, but the Imperialists, supported by the cenobites, resisted stoutly, and no impression was made on the defences for a considerable time. In one of the engagements, however, Nawa Nagatoshi, who had harboured Go-Daigo after the flight from Oki, met his death, and the Imperialist forces gradually dwindled. Towards the close of August, Takauji caused Prince Yutahito (or Toyohito, according to gome authorities), younger brother of Kogon, to be proclaimed Emperor, and he is known as Komyo. Characteristic of the people's political ignorance at that time is the fact that men spoke of the prince's good fortune since, without any special merit of his own, he had been granted the rank of sovereign by the shogun.

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